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Prized UF hoops recruit causing problems? Nah, he was just being a loyal friend

GAINESVILLE -- One of Florida's 2008 basketball commitments has apparently gotten himself into a little trouble about a state championship ring.

Plantation American Heritage's Eloy Vargas, a 6-10 power forward who has signed a national letter of intent to play for the Gators next season, was one of two American Heritage players suspended for three games this week for boycotting a game against Miami Monsignor Pace. The game was televised nationally by ESPNU.

Vargas missed the game in support of one of his teammate, Ray Taylor, who boycotted the event because he apparently isn't going to receive a state championship ring, which he earned last year while playing for Miami Monsignor Pace.

Sounds silly, right? You can view this from two angles. One, Taylor and Vargas are the latest examples of a high-profile prep stars gone bad, prima donnas with out-of-control egos.

A contrarian's perspective is a little different: Vargas was simply being a good friend.

This might seem ridiculous. After all, wouldn't a good friend advise his teammate to forget about the ring and just play the game? It's a little more complicated than that.

If you know anything about the highly competitive world of high school sports in South Florida, then you're fully aware that recruiting has become commonplace. It's no coincidence that three of the best basketball players in South Florida -- Vargas, Taylor and Kenny Boynton Jr. -- are playing on the same basketball team this season. (It's also no coincidence that Miami Monsignor Pace won a state championship last year with Taylor. The school is being hypocritical if it buys a player and then doesn't buy the same player a ring.)

With so many players changing schools every year, allegiance has shifted from loyalty for one's school to loyalty for one's friends. This is just natural, so American Heritage can't get too upset when something like this happens. It's just a product of the culture schools like American Heritage and Monsignor Pace have created.

-jo-

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